Anticipation measures of sequence learning: manual versus oculomotor versions of the serial reaction time task

Eli Vakil, Ayala Bloch, Haggar Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The serial reaction time (SRT) task has generated a very large amount of research. Nevertheless the debate continues as to the exact cognitive processes underlying implicit sequence learning. Thus, the first goal of this study is to elucidate the underlying cognitive processes enabling sequence acquisition. We therefore compared reaction time (RT) in sequence learning in a standard manual activated (MA) to that in an ocular activated (OA) version of the task, within a single experimental setting. The second goal is to use eye movement measures to compare anticipation, as an additional indication of sequence learning, between the two versions of the SRT. Performance of the group given the MA version of the task (n = 29) was compared with that of the group given the OA version (n = 30). The results showed that although overall, RT was faster for the OA group, the rate of sequence learning was similar to that of the MA group performing the standard version of the SRT. Because the stimulus-response association is automatic and exists prior to training in the OA task, the decreased reaction time in this version of the task reflects a purer measure of the sequence learning that occurs in the SRT task. The results of this study show that eye tracking anticipation can be measured directly and can serve as a direct measure of sequence learning. Finally, using the OA version of the SRT to study sequence learning presents a significant methodological contribution by making sequence learning studies possible among populations that struggle to perform manual responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-589
Number of pages11
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2017


  • Anticipation
  • Eye movements
  • Sequence learning
  • Serial reaction time

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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